Freetown, Baby!

Room to Grow by jc2010sl
April 6, 2011, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

After a week in Conakry I headed off the coast to the “Iles de Loos” to relax for the weekend. It couldn’t have been a better spot for winding down. Unlike Sierra Leone which subsists on a diet of Western pap, Guinea seems to be a culture suffused with its own music, and very proud of it. This was particularly so on the Ile de Rhoume, where some enterprising local artiste has set up a residential drum and dance school for western enthusiasts. Everyone on the island seems to move to a West African beat. At dinner my companions and I were serenaded by a local band, led by the wide-eyed “One Stone” and his ever-smiling companion.

It was the same story when I strolled round to the school on the other side of the island. The building was transformed into something more akin to a dance hall. Apparently there was some big festival for the end of term, but who knows if this wasn’t a daily occurrence. Either way, the young boys banged out a steady rhythm while the girls threw their moves in the classroom.

They start them young here.


Yestide bete pas tide by jc2010sl
May 20, 2010, 9:08 pm
Filed under: society, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

It’s not uncommon for musicians to rail against the established order. It’s practically expected. Hardly surprising then to find that one of Salone’s favourite sons, Emmerson, has made a name for himself lambasting governments past and present. His hits include Borboh Beleh; a song which likens the current APC Government to an overweight boy who has fattened himself by stealing food from others.

In a recent hit Yestide bete pas tide – “Yesterday was better than today” he sings how things have got worse since the APC came to power. As well as lamenting corruption, Emmerson claims that Salone has failed to develop. According to him, “businesses are closing, taxes have risen and teachers’ salaries are the same.”

Enter Innocent, another popular local artist, and his riposte in the shape of Gie dem Chance – “Give them a chance”. Musical rivalries being what they are he can’t resist the odd dig at Emmerson: bete don cam, yu no see becos yu blind – “better times have arrived, you can’t see them because you’re blind. Rather than failure, he points to a Salone moving forward. Development de, yusef kin testify – “Development is here, you can see for yourself”.

Maybe it’s nothing more than musicians using politics as a way of taking a swipe at each other, but maybe it’s also a sign of hope in politics. Today can be better than yesterday.

Akon-mania by mabrajeux
May 7, 2010, 1:23 pm
Filed under: entertainment | Tags: ,

Last week, Sierra Leone celebrated its 49th Independence anniversary and along with the more traditional celebrations, another treat was announced: a concert at the National Stadium by none other than Akon!

He might be familiar to some, but in West Africa he is one of the biggest stars there is, the epitome of the local guy making it big, even though he was born and at least partly raised in the US. The event was organised (and sponsored) by another West Africa and Salone expat, Gibril Wilson, as US football player who was born in Freetown. (more details on the organisation of the concert here)

So the gig was scheduled on the evening of Independence Day, the 27th April, tickets had gone on sale the day before with what seemed like little complications in salone terms and everyone was gearing for an evening of RnB beats and sweaty dancing… And then it started raining. Not just any little rain, but a proper storm, complete with downpour, lightning, wind and power cut…
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Bugle by jc2010sl
April 15, 2010, 6:43 pm
Filed under: public life | Tags: ,

At 6:30 each evening an eerie quiet descends on the State House building. Everyone stands stock still as a bugler pipes something sounding like the last post. The prohibition on moving even extends to the immediate environs of State House as I saw the other day. The driver stopped the car half way down the road and the milling pedestrians came to a halt as the bugle rang out.

I decided to get myself into the courtyard today to see what it is all about.

It’s a somewhat peculiar piece of theatre that seems to hark back to the colonial era. A military guard presents itself in front of the flag post and stands to attention as the national flag is lowered. The flag is removed somewhere into the bowels of the State House and another day is done.

Nor look en face by jc2010sl
February 20, 2010, 12:11 pm
Filed under: entertainment, society | Tags: , ,

I’ve been wondering what local Salone music was like since arriving in Freetown. The bars I’ve been to so far have been pretty expat-dominated with a diet of fairly cheesy R&B. When one of the Salones in the office offered tickets to the launch of home-grown DJ Lulu’s latest offering, I took him up on it. My colleague had met DJ Lulu in a bar and as they got chatting told her he worked in State House. This led to a visit to the office which caused much excitement. To put this in a UK context, you could imagine Josh Goodman meeting Lily Allen, telling her he works in No 10, and then giving her a tour of the building. Yeah, slightly odd, but this is Salone.
We headed off at about 10pm. We’d been told to get there for a 9pm start, but as the Japanese said – we’re on Salone time now. He was right – nothing happened for hours. I’d been expecting some kind of sweaty dance-hall type affair, but it was more like a sedate early evening BBQ. The venue was the outside area of a club on the hill; tables clustered around the pool and at stage at the back. The crowd was mostly well to do Salones and we were the only whites in the place. Quite a nice feeling not being surrounded by other expats, having spent most of my time up until then in either the office, downtown or on the beach.
The “gig” itself was a pretty surreal affair – 2 guys MC’ed in a mixture of Krio and English with frequent references to the corporate sponsors Africell: “bringing people together”. They opened proceedings with a 2 minute silent prayer to God and Allah (which lasted barely 20 seconds), immediately followed by “Beyonce”; a lip-synching drag queen in a micro-skirt. No division here between Christian and Muslim, or indeed between spiritual and secular.
Endless warm up acts followed, the better ones showered with cash from watching fans, until finally DJ Lulu took the stage. Her style is a kind of poppy calypso; upbeat songs given an unmistakable West African lilt for being sung in Krio.
And “Nor look en face”? It’s idiomatic Krio for “Don’t worry about it.”